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Obama to close Gitmo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- President-elect Barack Obama plans to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, shortly after taking office this month, a source said.

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CNN reported Monday that the move would be in keeping with one of Obama's campaign promises.

"The president-elect has repeatedly said the legal framework at Gitmo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists," said an official close to the Obama transition team.

Obama said Sunday he may not immediately shut the controversial prison down.

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication," Obama said on ABC's "This Week."

In a letter to Obama Monday, five human rights and civil liberties groups said he should suspend the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. The organizations urged the president-elect to stop the military proceedings against Guantanamo Bay prisoners such as Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad, Human Rights Watch said in a news release.

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Senate Democrats agree to seat Burris

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Leading Senate Democrats Monday said Roland Burris, a former attorney general from Illinois, is to be certified as the state's newest U.S. senator.

"Barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week," said a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin.

The Senate's legal counsel Monday approved Burris' appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who last week was impeached by the Illinois House and faces federal corruption charges for allegedly trying to profit from the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, CNN reported. Blagojevich has said he innocent of any wrongdoing.

U.S. Senate Democrats initially objected to the appointment, saying Burris was qualified for the seat but had been appointed by an allegedly corrupt governor, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.


FBI: Violent, property crimes fall in 2008

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The United States experienced declines in both violent crime and property crime in 2008, preliminary reports released by the FBI Monday indicate.

In the FBI's Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, violent crime dropped by 3.5 percent while property crime declined 2.5 percent, the agency said in a news release.

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Each of the four violent crimes analyzed -- murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- showed a nationwide decrease. The report indicated murder declined 4.4 percent, aggravated assault fell 4.1 percent, rape dropped 3.3 percent and robbery dipped 2.2 percent.

Demographically, cities with populations of between 500,000-999,999 posted the largest decrease in reported murders, 11.3 percent, while cities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants posted the largest increase, 9.8 percent, the FBI said.

For each property crime offense -- burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft -- a decrease was reported during the first six months of 2008 compared with data from the first six months of 2007, the report indicated. The number of motor vehicle thefts decreased 12.6 percent; larceny-thefts fell 1.2 percent; and burglaries dropped 0.8 percent.

Property crimes declined in all metropolitan groupings with the largest decline -- 4.3 percent -- seen in cities with populations between 250,000- 499,999.

Nationwide, reported arsons fell 5.6 percent during the first half of 2008 in comparison with the same period in 2007, the report said. Cities with populations between 250,000-499,999 were the only areas showing an increase, 2.0 percent.

The complete Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report is available at www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm.

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China screens 22.4 million babies

BEIJING, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Chinese health officials say detailed screening has determined that 296,000 babies were sickened by milk products tainted with melamine.

An estimated 22.4 million babies who drank the tainted milk products were screened by the country's Ministry of Health, Xinhua, China's state run news agency, reported Monday.

In all, 52,898 infants needed to be hospitalized with 52,582 of the babies being cured and at least six dying, said ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an.

Sixty people have been formally arrested in the scandal, with 21 of them currently on trial for allegedly adding melamine-laced "protein powder" to milk or selling the tainted milk to dairies, Xinhua reported.

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